Given the demeanor of members of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals at a hearing in September, it seems unlikely that Living with Pride ( LWP ) , the sober living space for LGBT people, will remain in its current location on Chicago's North Side.
The house, which opened in March, inhabits an important social service niche: a space for queer people in recovery from substance abuse, it is the only one of its kind in Illinois. It was founded by Dr. Claudia Mosier, who defended it before the board against a panel of her neighbors and 47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter.
The objections of community members who have tried for months to remove LWP from their neighborhood remain obscure. Those who testified suggested that Mosier holds Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings at the house; in fact, she stopped months ago at the behest of neighbors who, as one area resident said at the hearing, want to keep "unwanted traffic" out of the neighborhood.
It was also insinuated that Mosier provides counseling to inhabitants of LWPas if the very idea of counseling for substance-abuse issues was as socially hazardous as those issues themselves. ( Mosier, a clinical psychologist, is ethically prohibited from providing counseling to people who live in the house ) .
On the other hand, neighbors stressed that it was not 12-step meetings, therapy, alcoholics or queer people that they particularly objected to: This was simply a matter of zoning process. If only Mosier had gone through the proper channels, in other words, there would be no problems in the neighborhood.
Given the diversity and content of the neighbors' complaints, this piece on zoning seems, at best, dishonest. And trying to tease out any larger reasons behind all of the vehemence is difficult. Mosier herself seems confused: When she talked to Windy City Times in June, she said that her neighbors' complaints struck her as vague. "We don't have any [ specific ] concerns," she characterized the complaints, "but we have children."
Is this, then, about safety? The threats from Living with Pride seem largely spectral: by design, the place is quiet, quite well-policed and, above all, sober. And trying to rid your community of substance abuse and trying to rid your community of admitted substance abusers are two very different campaigns: evicting a group of people who have made to themselvesand, in effect, to those surrounding thema commitment to sobriety is surely the worst way to create any sort of community culture of responsibility.
Is it about money? Property values? A 2002 study commissioned by the D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services and undertaken in conjunction with George Washington University found that in a number of areas researched, property values did not fall over time for houses located close to any sort of "community-based facilities," as they're called; in many cases, they rose.
But it's probably no coincidence that Celeste Morawski, the neighbor who initially publicized a complaint, is herself a realtor. Though incorrect, fear of falling values may be as real, and as motivating a factor, as any actual depreciation.
This is speculation; the stated complaints against LWP are pretty incoherent. What is ultimately so shocking are the time, energy and anger that have gone into opposing a project whose goals are, after all, quite laudable.
It seems an odd sort of community project: Some people, by way of comparison, garden. Some people cook or jog. And some apparently spend their time making sure that no person with dependency problems will ever live in their neighborhoodas long as that person admits it and resolves to doing something about it. It's clear that by creating such an unwelcoming space for the kind of community-building naturally fostered by LWP, the house's neighbors aren't only hurting its inhabitantsthough they surely are doing thisbut in the end, hurting themselves as well.